Continuing up the Sacred Path –
This rather interesting structure on the left is a copy of the Serpent Column.
The ancient, three-headed snake originated in this spot nearly 2,500 years ago. This copy was made using a plaster cast which was taken in 1980 and has been safeguarded at the Delphi Museum since that time.
The Serpent Column was originally a bronze pillar built in the ancient city of Delphi, to commemorate those who had fought against the Persian Empire in the Battle of Plataea in 470 B.C. It was later removed and taken to Constantinople, but now it is back – well at least a copy.
It represents three intertwined snakes with the names of the cities that had participated in the Battle of Plataea engraved on their bodies.
According to Herodotus the column was built using the bronze of the melted-down Persian weapons. The heads of the snakes supported the golden cauldron, that the Phoceans melted to fund the Third Sacred War.
It is thought that the column with the three snake-heads had been intact until the 16th century. Only one of the heads survives today, detached from its body, which is not preserved. The head is exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Constantinople.
I am now about half way up the hill and there are still at least two more major points of interest for me to investigate. First is the Temple of Apollo – the photos here are at ground level – the better views are further up the hill and I will include them as well.
Apollo is one of the twelve Olympians and leader of The Muses. He is recognized as the god of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the Sun and light, poetry, and more.
He is the son of Zeus and Leto, and the twin brother of Artemis, goddess of the hunt.
Spoiler alert – we will visit his birthplace Delos later in our journey.
There has been five other temples constructed here but this sixth Temple of Apollo was finished in 320 BC and is the one visible today. Inside was the adyton, the centre of the Delphic Oracle and seat of the Pythia.
This is reportedly the base where the Oracle or Pythia had her stool. Maybe – maybe not – it is another bit of information provided by tour guides and who are we to doubt it? The Oracle’s stool was positioned on the left of the stone and he vapours arose from the hole on the right.
The temple had the statement ‘Know thyself’. This was attributed to Apollo and given through the oracle and/or the Seven Sages of Greece.
The temple survived until AD 390, when the Roman emperor Theodosius I silenced the oracle by destroying – in the name of Christianity – the temple and most of the statues and works of art. The site was completely destroyed by zealous Christians in an attempt to remove all traces of paganism.
The ruins of this temple decay at a faster rate than some of the other ruins on the Southern slopes of the Parnassos mountain. This is mostly due to the use of limestone which is a softer, more porous stone.
Continuing up the path – and as I said – the views of the temple are much better the higher you climb.
Next stop – the Theatre – not much further to climb – or so they say. The stadium is yet further still but I am going to give that a miss. Have to keep an eye on the time so that I can get back to the museum.
The Theatre presented the seated audience with a spectacular view of the entire sanctuary below and the valley beyond.
It was built in the 4th c. B.C. from local Parnassus limestone and has been remodelled several times. The 35 rows could accommodate around five thousand spectators who in ancient times enjoyed plays, poetry readings, and musical events during the various festivals that took place periodically at Delphi. The lower tiers of seats were built during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
Starting back down, there are still thousands, well hundreds of photo opportunities. Even though the heat is incredible I still manage to stop and click every few metres. Nearly at the temple – I just can’t help myself.
Squeezed on the hillside between the Temple of Apollo and the Theatre is an inconspicuous rectangular building measuring 15×35 meters, probably a portico with columns in the front not unlike the Treasury of the Athenians.
These ten verses also reveal that this monument was dedicated by the son of Craeros with Phila, the daughter of Antipater, who was Regent of Macedonia while Alexander was campaigning in Asia. This dedication dates probably from around 320 BC, i.e. after the death of Crateros.
Down the path a little and near the entrance to the temple, is a tall stone pillar that once bore a statue of Prusias, king of Bithynia, and dates from the 2nd century BC. Prusias fought a war against Byzantium (220 BC), then defeated the Gauls that Nicomedes I had invited across the Bosporus.
He expanded the territories of Bithynia in a series of wars against Attalus I of Pergamum and Heraclea Pontica on the Black Sea. Philip V of Macedon granted him the ports of Keios and Myrleia in 202, which he renamed Prusias and Apameia respectively.
Although he granted sanctuary to Hannibal, who fought against the Attalids for him, he remained neutral during the Roman Republic’s war with Antiochus III the Great.
Time to hot foot it down to the museum and meet up with the group – although I am sure that most of them will be late. I still have time to click a few more times –
This is such a special place – even though I was rushed I still got the feeling of serenity and ancient splendour. I would have loved to have spent the entire day here – but alas – it was not meant to be – definitely a place you need to do by yourself – not with a tour.
See you at the museum – –